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Modulation of Drosophila heartbeat by neurotransmitters


The heart of Drosophila melanogaster is a simple muscular tube with a posterior pulsatile portion and a thoracic-cranial vessel. The pacemaker, located caudally, is myogenic. Its rate of firing is modulated by neurotransmitters. Serotonin, octopamine, norepineph-rine, dopamine, and acetylcholine accelerate the heart, in that order of potency. Dihydroxyphenylalanine, γ-aminobutyric acid, glutamate, and glycine have no effect. Generally, the regularity of the heartbeat is not adversely affected by treatment with any of these neurotransmitters. We show here that amnesiac, a neurological mutation, and Dihydroxyphenylalanine decarboxylase temperature sensitive, a mutation that interferes with synthesis of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, result in slower heart rate and reduced regularity across a normal range of temperatures for these flies. Dopamine-N-acetyltransferase, which is on the catabolic route to dopamine, serotonin, and octopamine, has no effect. hypoactiveC reduces the rate of the heart, but its mechanism of action is unknown.

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Accepted: 5 August 1996

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Johnson, E., Ringo, J. & Dowse, H. Modulation of Drosophila heartbeat by neurotransmitters. J Comp Physiol B 167, 89–97 (1997).

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  • Key words Heart 
  •  Neurotransmitters 
  •  Neurological mutations 
  •  Pacemaker Drosophila